Aaron Dilloway - The Gag File
Within the genre of noise, there is - at least in my experience - an almost never-ending process of searching for artists and albums that are truly captivating. Unfortunately with noise, as is the case with every genre of music and non-music, stagnation and non-inventiveness is prevalent in the majority of places you look. Even more troublesome, this lack of invention is sometimes rewarded and celebrated. With a continuous watering-down of the genre by those who are indifferent to the craft and would rather exploit it for absurd gain, it is increasingly difficult to find individuals within noise I consider true creatives, rather than just "noise-makers". Specifically within American Noise, there are few artists I hold in such high regard as Aaron Dilloway. With his latest album "The Gag File" released on Dais Records, my respect and admiration continues to soar.
To call this album "unsettling" is truly an understatement. This album is anti-social, bleak, disturbing, hypnotic, cinematic, engrossing, and genuinely leaves the listener with an impending sense of dread and paranoia. Dizzying loops and samples creep into the mix, finding obtuse grooves along the way. With the opening track "Ghost" we are immediately dropped into a hellish atmosphere of cold waves and pulses. Subtle tones and drones drag on, while crashes and stomps of brittle textures fall into the void that is the track. As stated before, this album has a groove and a strange musicality to it, but don't think for a second this is in any way an accessible or easy listen. "Ghost" continues with this freakish groove and flawlessly bleeds into the second track "Karaoke With Cal". Haunting whistles have been augmented and corrupted into profoundly creepy loops, with static stomps giving us what can only loosely be called a "beat". This pulse fades out as the ghoulish whistles continue for what feels like too long (in the best way possible). This whistling continues until the third track and one of my personal favorites "Inhuman Form Reflected" kicks in.
This track is one of the most painfully uncomfortable moments on the album. An industrial loop trudges on and on, as loops of screaming, sirens, radio conversations, and everything else Dilloway could get his hands on is seeped into the mix. Blasted out yet subtle static sits underneath the industrial pulses as they pound out their uncompromising pattern. This album almost feels like a continuous tease; meaning that it gives the listener a semblance of musicality, only to pervert it and distort it to the point of non-inclusivity. As stated before, this album is not one to be embraced, but rather afflicted upon you. Human grunts and screams, the sound of pure fucking torture, round out the third track, with delays and feedback making them even more unlistenable. What sounds like a man being whipped to death before our very ears transitions into the fourth track "Born In A Maze".
Dilloway shows his expertise in crafting the ugliest of atmospheres. This album is not a dark gimmick or would-be soundtrack to a horror film. This album feels like abuse. This album sounds like pure pain and paranoia. This album feels like something in your life you'd want to forget. "Born In A Maze" pushes the listener to the brink of instability with intense and aggressive rhythms being slowly swallowed by distortion and hellish textures. The following track "It's Not Alright" is just that. One of the tamer parts on the recording, this track features subtle electronics sitting underneath an almost gothic-sounding vocal refrain. "No Eye Sockets" continues this uncomfortable feeling with samples of laughing, vague conversations, and dreadful pulses before being abruptly interrupted by the bombastic "Switch".
"Switch" starts off almost with danceable rhythms before falling apart into a glitching groove. This freakish pattern gives way to one of the most unsettling parts on the record, with sounds that are truly indescribable. It was at this point in the record that I knew I had to write this review. This record is fearless in its execution. Abrasive, indulgent, gaudy, inspired, and ultimately unforgettable, "The Gag File" is one of the most-enjoyable (and I mean that in the most-bittersweet way) noise record I've heard in years. The closer "Shot Nerves" ends the album off in the best way possible, unintelligible glitches and vocals blotches that send the listener off in an anti-climactic fashion.
Dilloway, which should come as no surprise if you have any knowledge of noise, is truly a legend within the genre. "The Gag File" is nothing short of a masterpiece, even though it sounds like anything but one. A troubling and claustrophobic listen, this album does something very few albums of any other genre can genuinely do: Disturb. If you want to be challenged, assaulted, truly afflicted by an album of any musical stripe, this is the album for you.
Purchase the album: https://www.daisrecords.com/products/aaron-dilloway-the-gag-file